Reading Support Worksheets for EAP

Reading Support Worksheets for EAP

Much is said in published literature about the necessity of EAP students reading authentic academic texts, and also about providing scaffolding and support for them to do so. I believe lecturers and academic tutors teaching their subject content in English and/or on a CLIL-based approach will also need to help students digest the readings for their classes.

Still, I often hear complaints from teachers that they set preparatory reading, but then found in the lesson that students were unable to discuss or work with the ideas from the reading, despite their claims that they did actually read the text. 

One way I’ve found to help students engage with the texts they are asked to read, then, is what I call ‘Reading Support Worksheets’. 

Reading Support Worksheets can help students to focus on the parts of a text or the ideas and concepts mentioned, so that they are better prepared to discuss or work with these in their lessons. Also, directing students’ attention to what the tutor deems the key concepts, the things they want to focus on in their lessons, the reasons they chose this reading text, can ease the load on students to comprehend every detail in a text and perhaps ease their frustration at the time and effort needed to do so. 

So how do I set up a Reading Support Worksheet?

I divide the text into manageable, logical sections, and pose questions or set quick tasks to guide students in the notes they should make whilst reading each section. Here are some of the question and task types I’ve used so far:

  • What is the central claim presented in the introduction?
  • What are the guiding questions and approach that this article is working with? How are these justified?
  • Paraphrase the quote by xyz.
  • Summarise the overall argument / point of paragraph xyz.
  • What do these abbreviations stand for: x, y, z ?
  • Give examples of xyz’s categories.
  • Copy the diagram/table on page x and add two more examples of your own.
  • Define xyz’s concept of xyz in your own words.
  • What are the key terms used by xyz?
  • On page x the example “xyz” is used to illustrate xyz. Explain the claim/theory/concept in your own words and add an example.
  • Note the break-down into 5 steps/categories here. 
  • Contrast xy’s idea/claim/theory with yz’s.
  • What is an xyz? Why is this important to understand?
  • Draw a diagram to illustrate xyz.
  • How to xy’s categories/ideas/key terms relate/compare to yz’s?
  • Make a time-line in note form, charting the development of xyz.
  • Name and describe in your own words two views on xyz.
  • What is special about xyz’s model?
  • Outline some of the measures taken to address xyz.
  • What are the reasons stated to support the claim that xyz.
  • Draw a flow-chart illustrating the structure of this section of the article.
  • How is the data presented in this section? What central claim is the data used to support?
  • What data analysis method was used in this study, and why?
  • For each graph in this section, write down I) what it plots (i.e. what the x-axis and y-axis show) and II) what trends are illustrated by the data presented.
  • What do you know about the “xyz” mentioned here? (If not much – find out more!)
  • Extension: Choose one source from the bibliography of this article to read as your next source on input on our topic xyz.

I believe that this type of scaffolding helps the students to get to grips with the content of a text at a mainly descriptive level, leaving activities which require higher-order thinking skills such as analysis and evaluation for the lesson time.

Of course, the number of questions or tasks should be suitable for the length of text – remember, students should have the feeling that the worksheet is helping them to digest the text, and not adding extra work!

In EAP, questions or tasks can be added to get students to focus on the langauge or other academic skills as they are demonstarted in the text. For example:

  • Write the bibliography entry for this text.
  • Why do you think the title of this section is pluralised?
  • Find transition words/phrases in this section that show xyz. Note their position within the sentence.
  • Find synonyms in this section which mean x, y, z.

Why not try it yourself? You can share your questions/tasks in the comments below, and let me know how it works out with your students!


10 thoughts on “Reading Support Worksheets for EAP

  1. These are some great ideas, especially the last one. They remind me a lot about close reading questiona, and also ARC questions. Do you typically have students read the whole article as a single piece and then give the article in sections?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Glad you like the ideas!
      Depends on the level really, and the length & difficulty of the article. Usually I’d get them to read a whole article on one go with the reading support sheet if it is a topic they’re already at least slightly familiar with, but I have also broken articles down to be read over several homework sessions if they’re really tough, or for lower-level students.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Hi, Clare!

    Thank you very much for this post! I teach Discussion Class at university, and I sometimes find that students are unable to have a dynamic discussion on the topic and refer to home reading even though the quiz shows that they’ve read the text and looked into details. I might try to implement Reading Support Worksheet you created as a part of homework task and see how it influences the discussions!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As a student I can just agree on what you are saying. It quite often happens that we have to read really long texts with many different information that we are overwhelmed, but don’t know what to do with the text and why it was important to read it. Guiding questions don’t create necessarily a motivation to read a text in general or to read on, but it helps the reader to focus on the important parts. Even though some people might say that it feels like even more work to do. However, I think you’ll spend less time on reading and you’ll be able to understand content much better, because you start scanning text passages instead of skimming them.
    I really like that post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi,

    I made a reading support worksheet yesterday with an advanced EAP class.

    Questions were organised by paragraph and pairs did the worksheet together. The questions are mainly aimed at referencing devices, guessing vocabulary meaning from context, functions of sentences and inferring meaning.


    – When did he go to Alaska? How do you know? What was his life like there?
    – What is the relationship between ‘lost their appetite’ and ‘continue to claim a passion’?
    – What does ‘this paradox’ refer to?
    – What is the function of this sentence: ‘young men and women…….’?

    The questions were aimed at helping students understand the text.

    It was a challenging lesson. That said, I’ve can’t remember seeing students comb a text so voluntarily, for so long (35 minutes) and in such detail in search of answers. It was very satisfying to watch. I’m not sure why this particular activity was so engaging. Maybe it was because they were working in pairs; maybe because we had never done this activity before; maybe because the questions were more demanding and of a different type than your average coursebook comprehension ones; maybe the text was more interesting than the average.

    Unfortunately, by the time we checked answers, many students were mentally spent and were not interested in marking the worksheet. This was a bit odd and frustrating actually. This final stage was supposed to be where students reflected on what they had done and the structure of the text, realising how many examples of referencing there were and are in other texts. I’m wondering what is the best way to follow up supported reading. Should be getting students to create their own set of questions? If we just do this kind of reading regularly in class, will it become automatic for students to approach difficult texts in this way?

    Thanks for posting this effective teaching idea!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jamie!
      Thanks for sharing your experience and comments! I’m glad your students liked working with a reading support worksheet.

      I’m not sure what you mean when you differentiate ‘checking answers’ and ‘marking the worksheet’, I’m afraid.
      I usually set these worksheets for use with preparatory reading as homework. In class, then, students can check their answers in pairs, ask questions in plenary if there are any disagreements about the answers, and then we can move on to the focus of the lesson, based on the preparatory reading. I think reading the text with the worksheet in class, then checking answers, and then doing some lesson activities based on that input might be a bit much for one lesson. The activity you mention sounds like a good way to follow on from working with a reading support worksheet, and consolidate their ‘findings’ so to speak. I also like to follow up with discussions on the topic, which allows them to use any new language they’ve discovered in the text. Maybe working with the text, if they do the reading in lesson time, should be spread out over two or more lessons, to ease the load and leave time for students to mentally digest the input?

      I don’t think getting students to set their own questions on a text they’ve already read so closely would necessarily be beneficial – as they might have to end up asking about things that are not particularly key to the text and its message/purpose. But training making their own questions on a new text might be a good idea – and might then also encourage them to approach future reading texts in the same way. Still, I think students would need a lot of guidance on this; especially if they’re in need of reading support worksheets to help them distinguish important form unimportant/extra information in their readings.

      Just my two penneth worth! 😉



      1. Hi Clare,

        Perhaps doing this activity on a more localised scale – just focusing on a few paragraphs may be a way to balance this classroom problem.

        Or doing it your way and setting it as a homework task and then using classroom time for discussion and clarification of ideas.

        I have a feeling we are in slightly different scenarios materials-wise though as I am using an EAP reading and writing coursebook with texts of about 2.5 pages in length I’m guessing your students are reading longer stuff.

        I agree with that getting students to write their own Qs might be a case of handing over control to the detriment of the task.

        Cheers for the 2 pennies!


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